India, one of the largest growing economies and a rising technology hub of the world, unfortunately, has a very weak passport. It is ranked 73rd on the list of Global Passport Power Rank 2018. This system ranks countries on the basis of their passport power, that is, how many countries the passport holder can visit without a visa. On this list, India’s visa-free score is 58; in contrast, Singapore ranks No. 1 and has a visa-free score of 163. According to Henley & Partners Passport Index, India does poorly, ranking 81st, and this rating has been on a decline ever since 2006.
The Indian passport
Ask any Indian about to go on a trip, whether it is for business or leisure, and the matter of concern is always the arduous visa process. The document list and the processing time always run long, and after all of it, there’s no guarantee that the Indian passport will secure the visa. Additionally, some countries require Indian citizens to book a roundtrip ticket so that the entry and exit dates of the passengers are finalized even before one has the visa. If the visa is rejected, not only does the applicant lose the visa fees, the cost of changing or canceling the flight ticket is also added to the losses. All in all, it’s quite a gamble and shows, very effortlessly, that even with India’s growing power and importance, the Indian passport is still very weak.
India is undeniably one of the most important trading partners and a market for both developed and developing countries. It is a participant in various multilateral and bilateral partnerships and trade agreements. However, very few countries, if any, allow Indian citizens to travel to their country without a visa.
India’s Visa-Free Score of 58 isn’t quite remarkable, to begin with, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the countries favorable to Indian passport holders, according to this score, offer a visa-free access. The list of countries that do offer are few and include only:
- El Salvador
- Palestinian Territories
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
The rest of the 58 that are favorable to Indian passports require Indian citizens to get a visa upon arrival. Not one developed country is favorable to Indian passport holders in terms of travel visas. Another setback is that Indian citizens acquiring visas need to be present in India for the process. If an Indian residing in the UK desires to travel from the UK to Thailand, they need to go to India, start the process for the Thai visa in India, and also spend a few days in India first to get the visa. On the other hand, citizens of developed countries generally can travel and acquire a visa for any county from anywhere.
The cost of a visa
Visa charges also take a toll on travel budgets. Indian citizens, while planning trips abroad, need to carve out money for visa charges apart from their other expenses. It is difficult to be an Indian “backpacker” in most countries, as the visa requirements include a full travel itinerary with entry and exit flights, accommodation bookings, and travel plans. If that wasn’t enough, the U.S. and Schengen visa also require you to provide evidence of your ability to pay for your trip, such as bank statements with funds in the bank for a significant period of time, sponsorship or recommendation letters, property papers, tax records, salary slips, and even an employment certificate sometimes. The idea is to prove to the visa agency that the particular Indian will return to India at the end of the trip. For the Schengen visa, if traveling from one Schengen country to another, Indian passport holders have to show evidence of the mode of transport within Europe as well.
With India’s rising economy, many people have growing incomes and large spending capacities. Indian families look forward to traveling to different international destinations over the holidays and they tend to spend a lot of money during these trips. This is a great source of income for many countries, especially whose economies largely depend on tourism. Over the course of time, the world, specifically the West, should eliminate or reduce their visa requirements and make traveling for Indians easy. Gone are those days when any Indian traveling abroad only sought to legally, or illegally, acquire citizenship. Today, many Indians have great jobs at home and just want to travel the world for leisure or work.